Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson: HERO Supporters "Will Be Destroyed"

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Reality TV, duck calls and homophobia came to a head this weekend during the "I Stand Sunday" event at Grace Community Church, a protest thrown by conservative Christians in their fight against the "dark forces" and the "radical agenda" that is (apparently) sweeping our nation.

Thousands of people showed up last night for I Stand Sunday, a rally by conservatives against the City of Houston's HERO ordinance, which bans discrimination against gay and transgender people. The televised service featured speeches from a number of well-known conservative leaders, including Fox News host Mike Huckabee and the Duck Dynasty reality star Phil Robertson.

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Babysitter Accused of Causing Toddler's Scalding Death

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A Houston woman has been arrested and charged in connection with the scalding death of a toddler whose injuries were so devastating that the skin around her elbows "slipped off" when she was removed from the boiling water.

20-year-old Carmen Pleasant was babysitting Nevaeh Cornwall, 2, and a younger sibling on July 31 when, according to court documents, she found the toddler in a tub full of scalding water so hot that the child eventually died from the injuries.


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E-cig, Vape Users Brace for FDA Regulations

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Photo by Susan Du
Thomas McCool of New Element Fine Vapors

Cloud blowers, flavor connoisseurs, smokeless e-cig puffers, surreptitious stoners, cancer patients trying to quit cigarettes -- Houston's e-cigarette and vape consumers as are diverse as the products created in the local DIY market. It's a market that's been allowed to frankenstein and modify new contraptions for vaporizing countless blends of liquid nicotine and flavored juices to the point that no two sonic screwdrivers meeting up at a bar have to be alike.

But with the FDA proposing to crack down, mom and pop vendors are holding their breath to see if regulation will stomp out innovation.

The FDA proposes permitting blends, limiting vending machine sales and free samples, marketing with health warnings and imposing a strict age limit. Ads claiming that e-cigs and vapes are healthier than regular cigarettes will require the backing of direct scientific evidence.

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DPS Tells Mayor Parker's Daughter She Can't Have Two Moms

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We already know that Texas' bullheaded stance on gay marriage -- that it won't in any way recognize it, even if couples were married in other states -- trickles down to individual Texas Department of Public Safety clerks. Same-sex couples in Texas have to navigate roadblocks that can royally screw with your day, even if you're the mayor of the 4th largest city in the country.

A tweet from Mayor Annise Parker caught some of that frustration with DPS Thursday, after one of the Houston offices barred her daughter from taking a driving test because, well, her daughter has two moms.

Parker, who is the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city, wed her longtime partner in January, but the two women jointly adopted this child and her older sister in 2003. Both women are legally her parents.


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Study Focuses on Youth Pot Use, Should Focus on Pill Popping Instead

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Regional Needs Assessment
The Prevention Resource Center at the Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston has released its annual Regional Needs Assessment, which gathers a ton of data and compiles it to identify everything you need to know about substance abuse.

The study shines a light on what's going on in our area (Region 6, officially), which includes data compiled from Harris and 12 other counties, with a focus on the adolescent population in Houston.

While it's certainly beneficial to have data on adolescent drug use, what's unusual is how focused on pot the study appears to be. Buried under some fear-mongering statistics about weed -- juveniles are most often arrested for weed! synthetic marijuana may fool kids! -- there are some seriously harrowing statistics on alcohol and prescription pill use among kids in the Houston area.

Let's read between the lines, shall we?


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HERO's Arch-Nemesis, the Alliance Defending Freedom

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Photo by Aaron Reiss
It's no coincidence that the City of Houston, Mayor Annise Parker, City Attorney David Feldman and company asked for any communication between the five local pastors and Alliance Defending Freedom (other parts of the subpoena were likely ill-advised, but that's neither here nor there) when they sent out that controversial subpoena that has been getting so much attention. After all, the ADF is a religious right organization dedicated to opposing LGBT rights the way the rest of us are dedicated to breathing and love of the Beatles, so if ADF lawyers have been advising local pastors on how to repeal HERO, that would certainly be worth knowing.

But what exactly is the ADF? The organization, formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund, was created in 1994 by group of high-profile activists from the religious right, including including James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.

The group operates with a budget of more than $30 million, an army of more than 2,000 lawyers who adhere to ADF principles, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. They specialize in legal work where they believe that religious freedom is being violated, though of course "religious freedom" only entails the views of those who agree with ADF. Basically these people see themselves as the anti-ACLU, a group that they contend has been working to promote "an anti-Christian, pro-abortion, pro-homosexual agenda on the Body of Christ in Europe, Canada, Latin America, and elsewhere," according to the ADF website.

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Why Moving Pride out of Montrose Is a Big Deal

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Photo by Julian Bajsel
Social media went haywire last week when Pride Houston announced that next year's Houston LGBT Pride Celebration will take place downtown, leaving its Montrose home of more than three decades.

Many were shocked because they weren't told this was happening ahead of time. And while there have been grumblings for years that Pride might have outgrown the Montrose, very few people appear to have known that this would be the year Pride Houston finally pulls the trigger and relocates.

On Facebook, people posted photos of old "PomPom" shirts ("People Opposed to Moving Pride out of Montrose"). JD Doyle, a grand marshal in last year's parade, wrote: "As the Pride Committee did not solicit community input regarding the decision, it is extremely difficult for us to make a reason judgment on it. Knowing how controversial this would be, they took that from us."

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Reminder: DPS Will Not Recognize Name Changes From Same-Sex Marriages

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Max Burkhalter
Last year, after Connie married her partner of nine years in California, she took her wife's surname, legally changing her diver's license and Social Security card to Connie Wilson. Legally speaking, she is Connie Wilson.

When work required that Wilson and her partner move from California to Houston with their three kids this summer, she knew the State of Texas wouldn't recognize her marriage. What she didn't know is that she couldn't keep her name.


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The Daily Show Pitches a New Name for Rice University

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Nobody wants anything to do with Ray Rice just now. Go figure, beating your significant other to the point she's knocked unconscious will tend to cause public opinion to go sour. Eventually. At least once TMZ gets hold of a tape of the beating and it is plastered all over the media and is so embarrassing that even the NFL can't ignore it anymore. In case you've been living under a rock, Rice was bounced from the Baltimore Ravens. Finally. He even lost his Nike deal. Anyways, people are turning in their Ray Rice jerseys, and demanding their money back and all that sort of thing.

While everyone is avoiding all association with all things Rice, The Daily Show's Jon Stewart had some suggestions about some brand-protecting changes that could be made. Specifically, "Rice-a-Roni" could become "Simmered Grain-a-Roni." He also had a suggestion for a certain rather prestigious college around these parts.

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Five Reasons to Give HPD Funding for Body Cameras

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HPD
Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland is asking City Hall for $8 million to equip 3,500 police officers over three years in order to arm HPD officers with small body cameras in a bid toward police transparency.

The push for department-wide body cameras is an expansion on a pilot program that began last year, in which 100 HPD officers were fitted with the devices during the test run. The so-called body cameras clip to the front of officers' uniform shirts and are capable of recording both video and audio of police encounters while on duty.


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